On April 13, disabled rights advocate Ni Yulan (倪玉兰) submitted an appeal to Beijing Municipal No.1 Intermediate People’s Court challenging her conviction and prison sentence by a lower court. On April 10, the Xicheng District People’s Court of Beijing found Ni guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” (寻衅滋事) and “fraud” (诈骗), and ordered her to serve two years and eight months in prison and pay a fine of 1,000 yuan ($159) The court also convicted her husband, Dong Jiqin (董继勤), of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and sentenced him to two years in prison. The verdict was issued more than three months after the court accepted the case in December 2011, exceeding the one-month-and-a-half maximum period allowed by law.
In her appeal, Ni argues that the criminal case against her lacked factual basis and was flawed by misapplication of the law.
For helping others to defend their property rights and against enforced demolition, Ni was imprisoned twice previously, in 2002 and 2008. She lost her ability to walk after suffering severe beatings while in prison. In April 2010, Ni was released from prison to find that her own home had been demolished. She and her husband began sleeping in a public park in a tent. When the couple’s homelessness started attracting press and public attention, the authorities relocated them to a room in a guesthouse, but proceeded to cut off their heat and electricity in the winter of 2011. The couple was detained in April 2011 and tried in December 2011 for, among other charges, refusing to pay the sum of $69,972 yuan ($11,073) which the prosecution alleged they owed the guesthouse for the room. Ni was also accused of posing as a lawyer without proper credentials.
Ni’s case has garnered increasing attention from the international community in recent years. On February 11, 2011, former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman visited Ni in her temporary home. On December 22, 2011, one week before Ni was tried, the Dutch government named her as the recipient of the 2011 Human Rights Defenders Tulip Award.
The couple’s conviction has been widely covered by the international media and prompted statements by the European Union and by the U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, expressing concerns about the verdict and calling for Ni’s release.
Ni Yulan, 51, graduated from China University of Political Science and Law (中国政法大学). Yulan used her legal knowledge to advocate for the rights of vulnerable people. In 2001, when China won the Olympic bid, Beijing underwent large scale demolitions. She advocated for those impacted by the demolitions, gathered photographic evidence, and resisted the forced demolition of her own home.
For more information on Ni Yulan and Dong Jiqin, see: